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The President of the Republic in the Rapla County on June 12, 2001

Estonia Remembers

It would be easiest to start with the Märjamaa Church. In the churchyard, there are 399 names carved in stone - the losses we have borne, but this is only a fraction of our losses. To talk about Rapla County - Rapla County has, at different times and for many reasons, lost 1500 people. Probably more. And today we commemorate those, we honour those who are here with us, who survived; and also the majority that is no longer with us, who had to sacrifice their lives, their families, and their hopes for future in the name of free, better and wealthier Estonia, which their eyes were never to behold. Those who are no longer with us can be found in the forests of Siberia and in the cold tundra, in the German war cemeteries, in the bottom of the Baltic Sea; some managed to escape during and from World War II to Sweden and England, to Australia, to the United States, and to Canada. Today they are all here with us in their thoughts, and it is our task to see them as if they were sitting right beside you on these very benches. This is our duty to them, and thus, we would also be fulfilling their dearest wish to be with us, to be under the blue, black and white flag, to be in free Estonia, to be under this blue sky that is no longer overcast.

The Broken Cornflower is an image, and I like this image. Cornflower is Estonia's national flower, and World War II broke this cornflower, perhaps more ferociously than it affected any other country or nation. We must first of all consider this, and understand that we are speaking as citizens of the Republic of Estonia, as citizens of a very small country, who before World War II did everything in their power for Estonia to be free and prosper, to be peaceful and happy. And we were proud of this Estonia where there was no crime, where wealth came with work, and where Estonia was well-known for her goods, good quality, noteworthy accomplishments in sports, and perhaps also for the fact that before the war, Estonia was on the top of Europe for the number of books translated into Estonian per capita. We had every reason for happiness, and we were happy. Where did our happiness disappear? Were we to blame for our lost happiness?

My dear fellow countrymen, we were not to blame, or if we were, then only for being a little too kind-hearted, too idealistic and unheeding of the threat that rose from the pact between the two totalitarian states of Europe. I am, of course, talking about the Hitler-Stalin pact; of course I am saying that those two rascals tried to divide Europe with their red pencil, and this red division line - a line of blood - also crossed Estonia. This is where it all started. It is our task not only to commemorate all those who are no longer with us, it is also our task to look into the future and ask ourselves: what else could we do so that what happened to Estonia in the past would be impossible in the future, so that Estonia would indeed be independent and free, and so that her security and the future of her children would indeed be in our hands - in the hands of the people of Estonia, so that we could safely say to our children: ''Go on, there is a wonderful future ahead.''

Dear friends, you who share my fate, this is the meaning of this day. Estonia did what she could. Perhaps we could have done a little more; small Finland, a country that succeeded to do more, will always be an example to us. It is true that Finland is also today five times larger than Estonia, but it is the resolve, the integrity of the people, that I value; I value it even more because when Estonia was fighting her War of Liberty, there was a civil war in Finland, where Finns fought Finns; and yet they could be reconciled and show that an reconciled nation can defend its freedom and independence also against the greatest power of the world. May be we should follow this example.

Here at Märjamaa, we should especially keep in mind that we are in the midst of the fiercest battlefields of Estonia. In the middle of July, the front was here, and it retreated southwards, towards Pärnu-Jaagupi, which was the reason for the offensive Red Army to murder hundreds and hundreds of people. It was the faith of our people that made us, upon the departure of one occupant and before the arrival of another, to hoist the blue, black, and white flag, to print new Estonian stamps, to restore the local governments and the rail traffic. All those men met their death. I would rather not dwell on this, but the other side did not come here to free Estonia either - it came to expand its eastern border.

We can only bow deeply to all those who sacrificed their lives for Estonia. And we can say something more: Europe knew real war - the war on the frontline. For us, there was also another war, the war against Estonian families, the Estonian people, which mostly went on in the night-time, and begun with banging on the doors and the rumble of car engines. We remember it from 14 June 1941, we remember it from March 1949; but those were only two major waves of deportation that took the sons, but mostly the mothers and children of Estonia to Siberia. This was a horrid time, when they tried to make history by night. We could have a look at the deportation lists, and get a very characteristic picture. We lost most of our Parliament deputies, most of the local government officials; we lost a great number of schoolteachers and social figures - all those who make up the social network that underpins a free society. Those people were picked out with cruel precision, with a firm intent to create a situation where no one could or dared even to think about the restoration of the Republic of Estonia, the freedom of Estonia. And when it became clear to our adversaries that they had failed and, on the contrary, turned all our people against them, four more waves of deportation followed after Estonia had been occupied; the greatest of them was in 1949, and it was directed against the Estonian farmers, because Estonian farmers were the force that supported and nourished the Estonian resistance, the Forest Brothers.

Dear friends, let us remind ourselves that those were not only human losses. Estonia is, after the Jews, the European nation that lost the greatest number of its citizens, but besides the people, besides our citizens, we also lost things that are harder to put in words, we lost our values, we lost our diligence, we lost our uprightness. When browsing the memoirs collected by schoolchildren, the most poignant image I have encountered has been that of the truck or the sledge with the deported people disappearing behind the bend of the road, and the neighbours waiting to take over the now empty farmhouse. There are two kinds of examples. I was glad to read that sometimes, those who returned from Siberia could get some of their property back, and some were even allowed to buy their farms back, but such cases were rare. This is something that has sown misunderstanding among our people - some neighbours, who have seized the farm and estate that they had never owned, now consider it to be theirs. This is how deep we have fallen from the scale of values that must be sacred in every society. Today, I would like to remind you that in Europe, human life is sacred, human freedom is sacred, and property is sacred; no one can touch it, it belongs to the person that has worked to gain it - this last truth is, unfortunately, a truth still undiscovered by some of our politicians. This does not make our life easier - it is something that severs our nation even today. Let us try to understand that if we want to be a modern nation, we must share all those rights and obligations which are common to the whole civilised world, and which we have always respected, also before World War II. I am pleased to see that step by step, those burning questions will be solved - in court if necessary, as it should be in a country that relies on law and justice. I am even more pleased that during the last two weeks, I have met people to whom these truths were fed with mother's milk, and who never failed to stand by them, and who understand that Estonia has regained not only her independence, but also her dignity, and that magnanimity is the most becoming attire for winners. This is why I would like to remind you that the Broken Cornflower Day is not a day when we should wallow in self-pity, or speak of all that we have lost. We know all this, and so does the world. The Broken Cornflower Day should be the day when we look into the past to pay tribute to all those who are no longer with us, but we only do this so that we could take a firm step into the future where those atrocities must never recur, where rule of the law has been guaranteed to us, where we can work in the modern way, so that Estonia will regain her past prosperity; where we will manage to rise to the status of a country known not only for her difficult past, but also for her present and future accomplishments. This is the reason why I have always held on to the belief that the common ties that bind us to Europe are above all in our work, in our values - in everything that is the foundation of the European Union. Estonia has been much more Europe than many other countries, because we have known what it means to be occupied first by one and then by another totalitarian power. It has been claimed that communism and Nazism are opposites. We know this is not true. We know that the Estonia where we want to live must have no inclination towards communism or Nazism. And the path between those two is the narrow path of democracy. It is a steep and thorny path, the steepest and thorniest of all. This is why it calls for a much greater unanimity and foresight, brotherly reconciliation. This will be the sacred path, the only path for Estonia.

On this day of the Broken Cornflower, I would also like to brighten your day with the message that no one can break Estonia's cornflower ever again. We have bravely built up our defence forces, and we have reasons to hope that Estonia will be a member of NATO, which means that Estonia will be a country where security prevails, a country where there is no need for our children and grandchildren, when learning of the horrors of past, to fear that they might come back. This is Estonia's future, and we draw the strength for shaping this future from the lessons of the past and the Broken Cornflower, so that cornflower could always blossom on our fields among Estonian corn, and no one could ever come and tread on our corn again. We have gained our freedom, and we guard it. We are winners, we have been stronger than those two totalitarian enemies that we have fallen victim to. And especially in today's sunshine, I would like to say: let us not forget those who are no longer with us, but let us feel that Estonia is a winner, that it is we who are the winners, and not those wretches that have brought so much suffering to Estonia, to all of us.

Thank you, and have a nice Broken Cornflower Day!


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